Original post: May 16, 2010.
It was 7:25 AM and Sule was already on the road. He hated the day already for having to wake up before eight o’clock. But he had no choice since the call came directly from the DPO, and he was reminded how important the case was again right before the boss ended the call. He opened his glove compartment and picked three pieces of bitter kola. Nothing brings more luck for the day than three pieces of kola early in the morning; he had convinced himself of this long ago. A wry smile flicked across his face as the taste of the first kola burst in his mouth when his dual-colored teeth cracked it open.
Two police cars were already parked in the Olajide’s compound by the time Sule pulled into the driveway. He got out of his weather beaten ’99 Hyundai Elantra and threw a mock salute at the patrol officers standing by.
‘Any of you boys got a stick of cigarette?’
‘No sir!’ A skinny looking officer in uniform answered back.
‘Ok, get me a packet of Benson. I noticed an aboki shop around five minutes’ walk from here.’ Sule dipped his hands in his breast pocket, pulled out a two-hundred naira note and handed it to the skinny officer. He turned to the other two. ‘By the way, where are the gatemen or guards? I didn’t see anyone manning the entrance to this compound.’
‘Sir, they are inside the house with everyone that was around here overnight. Constable Adediran and co. is with them.’
‘Hmmm.’ Sule mumbled.
A minute later, he was outside the door to the main house. The atmosphere of affluence hit him sharply as he stepped into living room, it was as if being transferred to another realm – a sharp contrast to the hot humid air outside. He closed his eyes briefly, sucking in a deep breath of the fresh breeze blown by the central cooling system.
He opened his eyes and a wave of gloom hit as he took in the sight and sounds before him in the spacious and flamboyantly decorated living room. To his immediate right was a middle aged man and a younger looking one, he assumed them to be the gate men; they were slumped against the wall, looking drowsy. The more youthful one jerked his head once, in an apparent struggle to stay awake. He noticed they were already in cuffs.
Weird. Sule thought.
Further to his right on the expansive sofa were seated two women, sobbing uncontrollably. They were being comforted by a couple of young ladies, a boy sat down on the rug right in front of the large sofa, staring emptily into space. He seemed oblivious to his surroundings.
To the Sule’s left was another young girl, early twenties he roughly guessed, her eyes were bloodshot, tears streaming down her face almost beautifully but the lost look of despair on her face was disheartening. There was no one comforting her. The other three men in the room, also to his left were dressed in the blue and black uniform of the Lagos state police department, popularly referred to as the LGPD.
All this and other minor details did Sule take in within seconds as he made his way soberly across the room to meet the men of the LGPD. He shook hands briefly with Constable Adediran and returned the half salute of the other men.
‘We’ve been waiting for you, Inspector Sule.’
‘Good move keeping everyone together here.’ Sule responded. ‘So what do we have?’
‘As you must have been informed by the DPO, Alhaji Dauda was found dead in his room at 6:45 AM today.’ Adediran started. ‘He was discovered by one of his wives; the younger one, who as their custom is, went to his room to wake him up to get him started for the day. She said she found him lying on the bed with a blood stained face, screamed in shock and the other wife rushed into the room. After they realized the Alhaji was dead, they dialed 909. As instructed they did not to touch anything in the room, so right now the scene is relatively fresh.’
‘Those are the two wives over there on the sofa with their kids, and that is Itoro; housemaid, she has a bedroom in the house too.’ He continued, pointing to the lone girl weeping adjacent the wives. ‘Over there by the wall are the supposed guards/gatemen, they were found still sleeping by the time our men got to the residence, it took a lot to get them to wake up, so we suspect they might have been drugged; nevertheless we have them in handcuffs ready to be taken to the station for interrogation…errm, for further questioning I mean.’
‘Good, good.’ Sule nodded. He was pulling at his mustache. ‘Can we go look at the dead Alhaji now. I want the wives and the housegirl to come with us.’
‘Why, sir?’ Adediran looked puzzled.
‘We shall see ogbeni Adediran. We shall see.’ Sule smiled gracefully at the constable. He was then interrupted by the skinny officer who came in with the packet of cigarette and Sule’s balance; Sule took the packet and waived the change. The officer threw a salute, grinning from ear to ear. He then left the room.
Inspector Sule turned to the other two men of the LGPD.
‘Please uncuff those men and let them have water to wash the sleep off their faces. I need to speak with them in some minutes’ time. I need them awake, comfortable, and sharp.’
They took the stairs up to Alhaji Dauda’s room, led by constable Adeniran. Sule behind him with the two wives, offering words of solace to the grieving women. The housemaid trailed behind last, still weeping.
Sule increased his strides to overtake the women as they got near the entrance of the room. Adediran held the door open for Sule and the women to walk in, he noticed the inspector didn’t even glance at the dead man on the bed; instead his attention was focused on the three women as they stepped into the room. Sule’s right hand was back on his mustache as he quizzically observed the reaction on the women’s faces when faced with the sight before them.
After a few seconds of uncomfortable staring, Sule sighed and turned at the corpse on the bed. He brought out his phone and started taking pictures; of the body on the bed, and random shots of the bedroom.
Click. Click. Click. Silence. Click. Click.
He sighed again and brought out the packet of cigarette. He pulled out a stick and was about to light it when the older wife shrieked.
‘Oga Olopa! You can’t smoke in this room now; have some respect for the dead. Haba!’
Sule didn’t seem to be caught off guard. He returned the cigarette stick and dipped his head in a slight polite bow.
‘I’m very sorry madam; I get this sudden urge to smoke at the sight of rigor mortis. I mean no disrespect to your…late husband.’ Sule turned to the younger wife. ‘Did you touch Alhaji when you came this morning? Did anybody else touch him in your presence?’
‘No.’ she was calm. ‘This was how I met him; I don’t think anyone has touched him since then.’
Sule smiled and nodded, he then addressed the housemaid for the first time.
‘Itoro, when did you discover you were pregnant? Was Alhaji Dauda aware of the fact that you are carrying his baby?’
The housemaid’s jaw dropped open in shock, her hands grabbing her heads instinctively in an exaggerated display of dismay and shame. The older wife’s jaw was in synchrony with Itoro’s, a sound – barely audible – escaped her open mouth. The younger wife’s teeth were gritted, arms folded and eyes blazing with hatred; she didn’t look as surprised as the first wife.
Constable Adediran was staring at Inspector Sule; he couldn’t suppress the look of surprise, mixed with admiration.
Sule was making mental notes as he took in the expression on the women’s faces and their accompanying body languages.
He asked again.
To be continued…